Real-time marketing is a timely, agile style of promotion focused around current events and immediate feedback from customers.
Rather than sticking to pre-planned campaign activities that fit within a long-term marketing plan, real-time marketing means creating and promoting content relevant to whatever is going on at a particular time.
It’s an attempt to be agile and connect with consumers in a specific moment in time. Companies have been trying to ride waves of relevance for a long time, but social media and the data it can provide marketers has enabled real-time marketing activities as never before.
You’re not you when you’re hungry
Here’s an example of real-time marketing that used controversy to promote an existing campaign. Snickers confectionery bar had been promoted in the UK using the strapline ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ to convey the idea that snack could help with ‘hangriness’ (the anger that accompanies hunger).
When Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was sacked by the BBC after a row with a producer over a lack of catering facilities on the set of the popular TV show, the Snickers team leapt into action.
They sent a case of the chocolate bar to the TV studios addressed to the irascible star using their campaign strapline. Fast responsiveness and perfect timing meant that the gesture was well publicised despite very little cost or effort.
— Snickers (@SnickersUK) March 12, 2015
Why real-time marketing can be effective
Social media has now advanced to a stage where real-time marketing efforts can deliver very effective results using information about their target audience, where they are and what they are interested in at that moment.
Because social media allows so much data to be available at any time, and shows what’s the hot topic at any given moment, responsive marketing messages can be created very quickly. Add into that tools such as Canva, which allow you to create graphics for social media posts very quickly, and it’s easy to kick professional-looking updates out the door in the blink of an eye.
It took Nissan UK only seven minutes to respond to the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting their second child. The car brand tweeted a picture boasting how much room one of their family cars offered, using an image of a vehicle interior with crowns on the seats
— NissanUK (@NissanUK) September 8, 2014
It may have been prepared in expectation of such an announcement but the fast response made it especially relevant – many people could have even found out about the pregnancy from this branded message.
Structuring messages to reflect a current event or topic of interest can make brands more relevant to consumers accustomed to instant gratification. Real-time marketing can help a brand appear fresh and relevant and also communicate other brand values.
In the example of Snickers and Top Gear, being cheeky and irreverent was supportive of brand values. However, real-time marketing can also demonstrate how aligned your organisation is with weightier issues, such as changes to the legislative environment that might impact on aspects of your industry.
In a situation such as this one, your brand voice has something to contribute that could also demonstrate that you are a significant, informed player in your sector.
Is real-time marketing just for B2C?
When Oreo sent out witty tweets encouraging followers to ‘dunk in the dark’ when a blackout occurred during America’s Superbowl sporting event, it was cute and funny. But can real-time marketing be relevant to more serious brands and to the B2B sector?
B2B sales cycles are often have much longer than B2C ones, with more processes to complete and stakeholders involved in decision making. So can real-time marketing be as impactful for brands or retailers that predominantly sell to other businesses?
Real-time marketing can deliver benefits for the customer experience, showing that a brand understands what is relevant to them at that time – something that’s equally important for business consumers as private ones.
It’s thought a real-time approach that demonstrates relevance can deliver improved customer retention, increased conversion and better brand perception for both B2C and B2B organisations.
Real-time marketing is really just about offering the right content at the right time; it isn’t necessarily going to provoke customers to rush out and buy the product immediately but it may impact on their long-term brand perceptions. Real-time reactivity can be a huge way to showcase your industry relevance and professional insight as it places your brand right at the heart of current events.
Customers are used to real-time marketing
Of course, it’s also the case that business customers are also B2C buyers in their private lives. Customers are increasingly accustomed to seeing real-time marketing from B2C brands so they may have expectations for brands to use some real-time marketing as par for the course.
Remember also that B2B vendors may be competing against other sellers offering a very similar proposition as far as the end buyer is concerned. Real-time marketing, cleverly done, could be a key way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
According to research by Econsultancy at the end of last year over 40% of B2B companies were currently engaged in real-time marketing or had plans to do so.
Only 28% of B2B companies weren’t making any real-time marketing plans. With the majority of vendors seriously looking into real time, it’s important to consider whether your brand could suffer as a result of not being as agile and responsive as others. The prevailing trend seems to be for marketing, even B2B marketing, to become less planned and much more reactive.
Whilst B2B used to be characterised by the formalised buying processes and long purchase cycles, for smaller companies and smaller orders that isn’t always the case. Increasingly customers are connected at all times using their smartphones and other devices, and expect their business suppliers to be as available and responsive as they are.
That’s another reason why the responsiveness of real-time marketing may be valuable in a B2B environment. There’s evidence that customers expect this responsiveness to extend across all the marketing channels. This could mean your audience expects you to be active on social channels over the weekends, especially if trending topics are relevant to your brand during that time.